Industry / Your Store

Expert Says Luxury Retailers Need To Create Vibrant Sensory Experiences


Luxury retailers such as jewelry stores need to create custom experiences for consumers with impeccable customer service and lavish interiors if they want to stay relevant, according to a retail expert who offered a glimpse into the newest luxury shopping experiences in a specialty webinar.

The webinar, held Sept. 13, was led by Daniel Hodges, CEO of Consumers in Motion Group, which focuses on retail trends and consumer behavior. He is also head of the World Retail Forum, an international organization that provides “the tools, the know-how, and best practices” to retailers internationally to boost the coronavirus recovery.

Hodges highlighted what he called “the future of retail,” a shopping experience known as the Avenue at American Dream, a New Jersey–based mall that opened in October 2019 and is one of the largest shopping centers in the United States. The Avenue will open Friday and has “an extraordinary level of detail in every aspect,” Hodges said.

The Avenue, which is “the size of two aircraft carriers,” is home to 150 luxury retailers, Hodges said. He said the stores there are unique to this particular mall but also outline retail trends that every luxury retailer should be observing and even emulating.

“They’ve created a dense matrix of luxury stores,” similar to Las Vegas, Hodges tells JCK. “These stores have become [the retailers’] North American flagships.… You can spend a week in that section [with] its frictionless shopping.”

The Avenue features copious amounts of natural light, curatorial displays, and captivating merchandising, Hodges said during the webinar. Even its floors are works of art. As a result, the shopping experience grabs even the casual observer and draws them into to buy.

“Experiences are the best teachers,” Hodges said, noting that the Avenue’s retailers—including Tiffany & Co., Gucci, Saint Laurent, and Saks Fifth Avenue—provide a newly elevated luxury experience. Store design should actually be called “store experience,” he said, and it should engage all of the senses. The Avenue has more than 3 million square feet rich in detail, has no straight lines, and engages your eyes and ears throughout.

Hodges said his World Retail Innovation Study Tour sees five trends driving growth: livestreaming, which is pushing shopping; training, which results in improved customer service; investment in the in-store customer experience; expansion of commerce, digital, and data platforms; and creation of health and wellness departments.

Hodges said he selected the companies he studied based on something he calls the Intelligent Engagement Index (IEI) score. The IEI is a real-time measure of a company’s performance based on factors including technology, store design, brand story, staff training, customer managements, change, and safety.

But the most important factor, Hodges said, is the human touch. Sephora, Apple, and Nordstrom, for example, often hire employees based on attributes like empathy and kindness, he said.

The webinar covered four retail industries: Luxury, Beauty, Fashion, and Grocery. The four-hour live event featured an executive summary of sorts, highlighting retailers in Europe, Latin America, North America, and Asia whose innovation and success could spark ideas for the industry, Hodges said.

Hodges said the research he presented is the culmination of two years of work, and his global study tour is now the largest program of its kind. His New York–based company has more than 30 customized programs for retailers and their related industries.

“Representatives from businesses in 50 countries have participated in our weekly ‘On the Frontline: Navigating COVID-19’ live event,” he said. “Retailers, restaurateurs, and small business owners—whether they are one-person operations or organizations of 10,000—can benefit from this level of cooperation.”

Top: The Avenue at American Dream (photo courtesy of American Dream) 

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Karen Dybis

By: Karen Dybis

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